Why Did God Create Anything At All?

Recently, in response to my outlined version of Aquinas’s First Cause Argument, I received this question as a possible objection: why would God create anything at all?

Now, this is quite a weighty question, one which a short blog post won’t be able to fully and sufficiently tackle. But I’d like to unpack it briefly and offer a possible answer.

First, the original question which came via twitter user “Rix”:

The question in this form is why would God Continue reading

Advertisements

Outlined Version of the First Cause Argument

Here is the outlined version of Aquinas’s First Cause Argument for the existence of God, also known as the Second Way. The full series of articles can be found here, here, here, and here. Refer to those articles for full, in depth explanations and defenses for the premises.

The very, very condensed version of the argument argument:

  1. Our senses observe essentially ordered series of efficient causes
  2. Nothing can be the efficient cause of itself
  3. Therefore, either the series of efficient causes must have a first cause, a circular regress, or an infinite regress
  4. Essentially ordered series cannot have a circular or infinite regress
  5. Therefore, there must be a first cause

The more precise, expanded version:

  1. Our senses observe that there are efficient causes
  2. Some instances of efficient causes exist in essentially ordered series. Such instances include composite beings, beings which operate within a system, and beings whose essences are distinct from the act of existing and therefore must be conjoined and conserved
  3. Nothing can be the efficient cause of itself
  4. Therefore, either the series of efficient causes must have a first cause, a circular regress, or an infinite regress
  5. Essentially ordered series cannot have a circular or infinite regress
  6. Therefore, there must be a First Cause

What can we know about the First Cause?

  1. Efficient causation is the actualization of potency
  2. As the Prime Mover argument demonstrates, essentially ordered series of potency reduced to act must ultimately lead to a Being of Pure Act
  3. Therefore, the First Cause is a Being of Pure Act
  4. For those beings whose essences are distinct from the act of existing, the First Cause must be a being whose essence and existence are identical
  5. A being whose essence and existence are identical is Pure Being, Pure Existence, Subsistent Being Itself
  6. Therefore, the First Cause is Subsistent Being Itself
  7. The First Cause, since it is Pure Act, has no potencies
  8. Anything that changes has potencies
  9. Therefore, the First Cause cannot change (is immutable)
  10. In order to distinguish objects from other objects, they must have unrealized potencies
  11. Two or more beings of Pure Act would have no potencies, and thus would be indistinguishable, and thus identical
  12. Therefore the First Cause is one
  13. All material objects have potencies
  14. Therefore, the First Cause cannot be material (is immaterial)
  15. To come into or go out of existence is to change
  16. Therefore, the First Cause can never have come into, and can never go out of, existence (is eternal)
  17. Every being which exists within time has potencies
  18. Therefore, the First Cause cannot exist within time (is timeless)

So far we have established one First Cause that is Pure Act and Subsistent Being Itself, making it immutable, immaterial, eternal, and timeless. But there’s more

  1. The First Cause, as Pure Act, ultimately actualizes all potencies, so it is the ultimate efficient cause of everything that happens
  2. Furthermore, as Subsistent Being Itself, it is Pure Existence, and everything else that exists derives its very existence from it
  3. Thus it can be said to be “all powerful” in the relevant sense (is omnipotent)
  4. There are several arguments for the personhood/intelligence of the First Cause
    1. Argument from the Nature of Immaterial Beings:
      1. All material beings are composites of form and matter
      2. All material beings are capable of instantiating only one form at a time, because they are limited by their material nature
      3. An immaterial being would not be limited by material nature, and thus could instantiate multiple forms at once
      4. When an immaterial being instantiates multiple forms, it is said to grasp/understand/conceive of that form. This is what intellect is
      5. The First Cause is immaterial
      6. Therefore the First Cause has intellect
    2. Argument from Proportionate Causality:
      1. All causes must contain their effects either eminently or formally
      2. The First Cause is the ultimate cause of all human attributes
      3. Therefore, the being of Pure Act must contain human attributes either eminently or formally
      4. Many human attributes are material in nature
      5. The being of Pure Act is immaterial
      6. Therefore, the being of Pure Act can only be said to contain these physical/material attributes eminently
      7. Some human attributes, such as personhood and moral nature, are immaterial
      8. Thus the being of Pure Act could be said to contain these attributes formally
      9. Therefore, we can say that the being of Pure Act contains personhood and a moral nature (albeit analogically)

Thus we arrive at one being that is the First Cause of everything, that is Pure Act and Subsistent Being Itself, that from which every other being derives its very existence, which is immutable, immaterial, timeless, eternal, omnipotent, and personal. And this Being we can rightly call God.

 

*Important Note: The argument as presented above is not meant as a syllogism. The argument could be constructed into the format of a syllogism, but the above presentation is not meant to be that. This post is just meant as a general outline of the full, in depth, fleshed out argument as found in the articles linked to above. I will be from time to time editing and refining this outline so as to make it more efficient and less susceptible to criticism. Check back for updates.

Aquinas’s First Cause Argument, Part 4: Conclusion

This is the fourth and final post in my series on Aquinas’s First Cause Argument for the existence of God, also known as the Second Way. So far, in the previous posts (which can be found here, here, and here) we have established that there are efficient causes, that there are some instances of efficient causes which exist in essentially ordered series, and that these series must terminate in a First Cause. In the second post we established that two types of efficient causes which exist in essentially ordered series are composite beings and beings which operate within a system (Clarke, The One and the Many). We also noted, however, that on a superficial level, it would appear that for an object to “begin” to exist seems to just present us with an accidentally ordered series, rather than an essentially ordered one. But when we examine the deeper metaphysical principles, we discover that this is not actually the case. All the objects around us have an essence which is distinct from their act of existence, and thus something must conjoin the essences with the acts of existence when the object begins to exist, and conserve the essence with an act of existence while it continues to exist here and now from moment to moment. This itself comprises an essentially ordered series which must also terminate in a First Cause. Furthermore, the First Cause of this series, since it conjoins and conserves the essence and act of existence in those beings in which the two are distinct, must itself have an essence which is identical with its act of existence. In other words, there must exist something whose essence just is existence, something which is not being, but rather Being Itself, Pure Existence, Pure Being, which Aquinas calls “Subsistent Being Itself.” Continue reading

Aquinas’s First Cause Argument, Part 3: Essence and Existence

This is the third post in a series on Aquinas’s Second Way, or the First Cause Argument for the existence of God. In the first post I set forth some preliminary issues which it is important to understand before examining the argument. Of these issues, the most significant two are that Aquinas’s First Cause Argument is entirely different from other first cause arguments, such as the popular Kalam Cosmological Argument. The Kalam is dependent upon the universe having had a beginning; the Second Way is not. Secondly, I noted that the notion of causality itself has been contested by modern philosophers and scientists, and I explained Continue reading

Outlined Version of the Prime Mover Argument

My articles on the Prime Mover Argument for the existence of God (here, here, and here), also known as Aquinas’s First Way, are a bit lengthy and technical. This is needed for a full understanding/appreciation of the argument. However, it can take some time to really get through them. As such, I thought it might be useful to post a condensed, outlined version of the argument, in the form of a syllogism:

  1. Our senses observe that motion really exists
  2. Motion is a potency reduced to act
  3. Potency can only be reduced to act by another which is itself already in act
  4. Essentially ordered series of such motion must either terminate in a prime mover (which is Pure Act), or else have a circular or an infinite regress
  5. Essentially ordered causal series of such motion cannot in principle have a circular or an infinite regression
  6. Therefore, there must exist a prime mover, which is a being of Pure Act

Now, what can we know about this being of Pure Act?

  1. A being of Pure Act is, by definition, purely actual, with absolutely no potencies
  2. Anything that changes has potencies
  3. Therefore, the being of Pure Act cannot change (is immutable)
  4. In order to distinguish objects from other objects, they must have potencies
  5. Two or more beings of Pure Act would have no potencies, and thus would be indistinguishable, and thus identical
  6. Thus we can say that there is only one being of Pure Act (is one)
  7. All material objects have potencies
  8. Therefore, the being of Pure Act cannot be material (is immaterial)
  9. To come into or go out of existence is to change
  10. Therefore, the being of Pure Act can never have come into, and can never go out of, existence (is eternal)
  11. Every being which exists within time has potencies
  12. Therefore, the being of Pure Act cannot exist within time (is timeless)

So far we have established one being of Pure Act which is immutable, immaterial, and timeless. This already takes us to a conception of God. What more can be said?

  1. The being of Pure Act ultimately actualizes all potencies, so it is the ultimate cause of everything
  2. Thus it can be said to be “all powerful” (is omnipotent)
  3. The being of Pure Act is immaterial (see pt. 7-8 above)
  4. It is possible that all immaterial beings can be said to be personal beings (for a defense/explanation of this, see part 3 of my Prime Mover series)
  5. Furthermore, all causes must contain their effects either eminently or formally
  6. The being of Pure Act is the ultimate cause of all human attributes
  7. Therefore, the being of Pure Act must contain human attributes either eminently or formally
  8. Many human attributes are material in nature
  9. The being of Pure Act is immaterial
  10. Therefore, the being of Pure Act can only be said to contain these physical/material attributes eminently
  11. Some human attributes, such as personhood and moral nature, are immaterial
  12. Thus the being of Pure Act could be said to contain these attributes formally
  13. Therefore, we can say that the being of Pure Act contains personhood and a moral nature (albeit analogically)

Thus we have arrived at a being which is one, Pure Act, immutable, immaterial, timeless, eternal, omnipotent, and personal; and this being we call God.

To see the argument fully fleshed out, with each of the premises defended and key objections responded to, see the articles linked to above.

The Person of Jesus Part 2: Questions for Inquiry

In my introduction and first post on the person of Jesus, I discussed what effect and influence the mere idea of Jesus has had on human history over the past two thousand years. That is, the idea of a man who is fully human, and yet also, in some mysterious way, is also fully divine, God in the flesh; not just a god, but the God, the God of the Jews, Lord of all creation and all life; this God, who did not simply leave his throne to become human, which by itself is an unprecedented, overwhelming, simply staggering idea, but a God who became a man lowly and weak, without honor or wealth; and a God who allowed himself to be tortured, humiliated, and ultimately killed, in the most shameful and horrendous execution fit only for the most vile of criminals, before eventually conquering even death itself and coming back to life. The idea of this God-man who died for the sake of, and out of utter love for, all people, for the ultimate redemption, restoration, and recreation of the entire world; the idea of the God-man who in life was completely perfect in all his ways, and showed his followers how to truly live with the highest ethic ever preached on earth; who cared for the sick and marginalized; who above all loved with a love never before or since seen amongst mankind; this is the idea which was born from the story of Jesus of Nazareth; this is the idea which shook the planet and has covered all of human history in its glorious and profound shadow.

But the question arises: this idea, this beautiful and awesome idea, is it true? And how can we know? Continue reading

A Cry for Peace

We live in a world torn by violence, division, oppression, injustice, anger, ignorance, chaos, and, ultimately, hatred. It is a broken world, full of broken people. Confusion and fear reign. We jump to sides, immersing ourselves in ideologies to protect ourselves and make sense of the raging discord and turmoil. We create “us vs. them” narratives to justify ourselves; and whenever tragedy strikes, we are quick to point the finger to the other side.

Today, I don’t want to point fingers or call names or lay blame. Today I don’t want to stand on any one side of a political fence. Today I want simply to pray and cry out for peace.

But what is peace? Continue reading